10 Best Maps For Nature Lovers

Experiencing the wilderness comes with inherent risks, and anyone who has ever spent time outdoors knows how important a good map can be. For hikers, backpackers, paddlers, mountain bikers and climbers, maps can be literal life-savers.

Maps also serve as souvenirs, as reminders of the adventures we’ve had and the memories we’ve made. The maps listed here have a place on any nature lover’s wall.

United States National Parks

Starting with Yellowstone, which became America’s first National Park in 1872, some of the most unique and precious landscapes in the U.S. have been preserved by the National Park Service. This map, which shows the location of each of the United States National Parks, is a great way to commemorate what has often been referred to as “America’s best idea.” It’s an ideal gift for a nature lover, and also functions as a checklist of sorts for travelers who plan on someday visiting each U.S. National Park.

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of America’s great scenic drives. This iconic ribbon of road follows the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains for 469 miles, offering access to some of the most beautiful scenery in North Carolina and Virginia. This Blue Ridge Parkway map is a faithful reproduction of the classic official Parkway guide, and bears the seal of the National Park Service. You can also read the mile markers, and see the locations of all the Parkway’s most recognizable landmarks like Mt. Pisgah, Linville Falls, Cumberland Knob and Peaks of Otter. The Blue Ridge Parkway was constructed in stages between 1935 and 1987, and a short essay on the history of the route is also included on this map.

Alaska Lakes & Rivers

There’s no wilder place in the United States than Alaska. Our largest and northernmost state still represents the last frontier in America’s collective imagination, and this map of Alaska Lakes & Rivers is a beautiful representation of all its wild glory. It’s easy to imagine bears fishing for salmon and eagles circling overhead as you trace the course of mighty waterways like the Yukon, the Kobuk and the Koyukuk River on this beautifully rendered map.

Great Lakes Shipwrecks

The Great Lakes are a perfect example of why we should never underestimate nature’s fearsome power. It is estimated that around 30,000 mariners have lost their lives in the 6,000-plus shipwrecks that have occurred in the Great Lakes. Many of the lakes’ most significant wrecks are shown on this Great Lakes Shipwrecks map, which represents all five lakes and marks the final resting places of dozens of ships. For anyone who sails or fishes the lakes, this map is a fascinating artifact as well as a somber reminder of the Great lakes’ power.

Appalachian Trail

Is there any more iconic footpath in the world than the Appalachian Trail? Zig-zagging across the highest peaks of the Appalachian Mountains for 2,190 miles, the trail stretches through 14 states from Georgia to Maine. Thousands of hikers attempt to complete the trail every year, a journey that typically takes 5 to 7 months. This decorative Appalachian Trail map, which is based on a vintage A.T. map originally published in 1934, is a fitting memento for hikers. Although the precise route of the trail has changed since this classic map was made, many of the landmarks remain unchanged.

Yellowstone National Park, WY

Yellowstone is America’s oldest National park, and almost certainly its most well-known. More than 4 million people visit this park every year, and touring its natural wonders is something of a rite of passage for Americans who love nature and the outdoors. This Yellowstone National Park, WY map, which dates to 1948, originally belonged to the Lindgren Brothers’ Tourist Maps series, often referred to as “Hysterical Maps.” This one is characteristically jam-packed with jokes and comedic details along with the locations of famed landmarks like Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs.

America’s Great Loop

America’s Great Loop might not be quite as famous as some of the other landmarks on this list, but many boaters know it as a system of waterways that form a continuous water route around the Eastern United States. Stretching approximately 6,000 miles, the Great Loop is made up of the Mississippi River and Great lakes, as well as the Intracoastal Waterways of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. This map of America’s Great Loop features the complete circuit, which many boaters spend a year or more completing in its entirety.

New York Wilderness & the Adirondacks 1879 Map

Adirondack Park was established in the mountains of New York in 1892, making it one of the first Forever Wild Forest Preserves in the nation. To this day, it’s the largest protected natural area in the lower 48 states, encompassing more than 6 million acres, and is a haven for hikers, mountain bikers, kayakers and fly-fishermen. This incredibly detailed vintage New York Wilderness & the Adirondacks map predates the formation of that park by over a decade, and represents the Adirondack Mountains in all their wild glory.

Great Smoky Mountains Road & Trail Distances 1940

For more than a century, the Smoky Mountains have been one of America’s most popular wild getaways, a place where people from all over the Eastern U.S. go to reconnect with nature. This vintage 1940 map of the Smokies depicts the mountains in amazing detail, including all the highest peaks in the mountain range, which straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee. In addition to pinpointing landmarks like Clingman’s Dome and Mt. Guyot, This map includes detailed road and trail distances, as well as a cross-section profile of the mountain range.

Pacific Crest Trail

In a way, the Pacific Crest Trail is the West Coast counterpart to the Appalachian Trail. Stretching all the way from the Mexican border to the Canadian border, the PCT is even longer than the AT, traversing 2,650 miles through the most rugged terrain in California, Oregon and Washington. Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is the experience of a lifetime, and this handsome decorative trail map is a perfect reminder of that grand adventure.

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